The Days of the Deer is the first book in Liliana Bodoc's Saga of the Borderlands series, a work of epic fantasy translated from the original Spanish narrative into English by Nick Caistor and Lucia Caistor Arendar.
Liliana Bodoc is a bestselling author in Latin America where she is know for her fantasy trilogy Los saga de los Confines. Amongst her admirers is Ursula Le Guin, who mentions that "when asked who I admire within my genre, I can only think of one name: Liliana Bodoc." Le Guin goes on to say that The Day of the Deer features "a uniquely original fantasy world: I am not at all ungrateful to all my dear great ones of Europe, from Tolkien on down - but still - I have longed for a fantasy that sprang wholly from the American earth. And you have given it to me!"
It is known that the strangers will sail from some part of the Ancient Lands and will cross the Yentru Sea. All our predictions and sacred books clearly say the same thing. The rest is all shadows. Shadows that prevent us from seeing the faces of those who are coming.
In the House of Stars, the Astronomers of the Open Air read contradictory omens. A fleet is coming to the shores of the Remote Realm. But are these the long-awaited Northmen, returned triumphant from the war in the Ancient Lands? Or the emissaries of the Son of Death come to wage a last battle against life itself?
From every village of the seven tribes, a representative is called to a Great Council. One representative will not survive the journey. Some will be willing to sacrifice their lives, others their people, but one thing is certain: the era of light is at an end.
The Days of the Deer is a book I would recommend but with a few reservations. In style it reminded me of a J. R. R. Tolkien novel - not The Lord of the Rings this time but The Silmarillion - and I found the mixture of high/epic/heroic fantasy, heavily influenced by folklore and mythology, to be adeptly worked together by a scholarly hand.
The book has many positives and the lilting, poetic narrative is at times a thing of great beauty which instilled in me the calm reading pleasure that I first experienced when reading the above-quoted Ursula Le Guin's Earthsea books. The world building is imaginative and uniformly excellent, different from the medieval European bias we as fantasy readers are used to as its roots lying more in Native/South American folklore. When at its best it is a
charming and easily readable novel, true and unashamed epic fantasy with the fate of the The Ancient Lands resting on the shoulders of the heroic defenders.
However, I did on occasion find the phrasing do be rather blunt and when the representatives of The Ancient Lands all converge in the city of Beleram for council I became increasingly confused as to who was who, where in the land they came from and what their own personal agendas were, and this lead to a lessening in my enjoyment of the story. I wonder if certain parts of the book suffered from a "loss in translation", with epic fantasy and all its made-up names and places proving particularly problematic and difficult to translate when compared to say, urban fantasy - this is something I also find in regard to audio-books - of which I have read several excellent translations. So that was my only real issue with the book - I was constantly wondering if I was missing something important as I did not fully understand everything that was going on. I also wondered if the best way to enjoy the novel would have been in reading it in its native Spanish. (I wonder if Ursula Le Guin reads the Spanish or English?)
So I would recommend The Day of the Deer to fans of Tolkien and Le Guin but warn them that the English may not be everything the Spanish edition was.
The Days of the Deer by Liliana Bodoc (The Saga of the Borderlands series)
Published by Corvus, trade paperback for £12.99 on 6 August 2013
Also available as an eBook at £2.99
Review by Floresiensis
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